Someone said “anime isn’t deep, it’s just entertainment”

Anime is entertainment. Anime is deep. Anime is ugly. Anime is stupid. Anime is beautiful. Anime is isolation. Anime is culture. Anime is anything to anyone.

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(Because I’m such an elitist lamer, I was invited by Owen of Cruel Angel Theses ♪ to take part in this discussion of "anime isn’t deep, it’s just entertainment". Other enthusiastic contributors include the fine bloggers at Drastic My Anime Blog, Hige Vs. Otaku, That Animeblog, That’s Not Kanon and The End of the World.)

Anime is entertainment. Anime is deep. Anime is ugly. Anime is stupid. Anime is beautiful. Anime is isolation. Anime is culture. Anime is anything to anyone. Gurren Lagann isn’t deep, it’s just entertainment, Grave of the Fireflies is deep, but it sure as hell doesn’t feel like entertainment. Dear ignorant masses: there is no argument; anime is a swirling kaleidoscope of colour and emotion, all at once a profound revelation and a cynical marketing ploy. What I mean to say is, for all of those hundred-odd episodes of consecutive Naruto fillers, watching that stunning first episode of Shippuuden, feeling that fleeting Naruto magic one last time, if just for that one evening, felt like it was worth the wait. That is anime, it’s what you take from it.

One of the more esoteric statements above is that "anime is culture". Indeed, I’m sitting here now and writing this article as a part of a group collaboration with my fellow bloggers. I wouldn’t be in contact with them if not for anime, that’s what binds us together, the common link. To use a more extreme example, let’s consider a popular anime-dominated community like 4chan, with its own particular attitudes and use of language. A big crowd of 4chan’ners at Otakon were recorded chanting slogans like "DESU DESU DESU", and to outsiders like me, it makes no sense, it’s a sub-culture with it’s own particular rules and words.

Anime is a great foundation over which to build a (admittedly geeky!) community like that (not forgetting conventions, fan-clubs and so on), but getting involved obviously relies on an innate need to interact with your fellow otaku. It’s easy to join discussions with bunch of anime fans, to refine your literary skills and critique the latest shows, but it’s even easier to do nothing. Many will use anime to escape real life, to sit in front of their TVs, day after day, night after night, watching nothing but Japanese cartoons and spending all of their money on figurines and bed-spreads, surrounding themselves in a fabricated universe. Basically, your figurines won’t magically start moving, guys, you’re stuck in this dimension for the time being.

That’s what anime means to people; a lot. It’s a road to social interaction or isolation; you choose the direction. Otaku don’t spend hundreds of dollars and travel hundreds of miles to celebrate "light entertainment".
In more physical terms, whether or not an anime production is capable of transcending that dreaded level of "light entertainment" depends on the establishment of a strong emotional understanding between the animated characters and yourself, the viewer. In my case, I love One Piece because every step of the way, I’m so behind the Straw-hats, I understand (and therefore, I feel) their comradery, their need to protect one-another. When a character clicks with me, that’s all I need, the anime is win from that point onwards. A good soundtrack helps too.

The trick is finding what clicks with you, and if you follow what is popular these days, that’ll be either cute school girls or pretty boys. In these cases, the aesthetic is the attraction, all the talk is of moe, loli and bishonen; visual styles. To me, that’s superficial, that’s "light entertainment", but to the fans who love these series, the art is essential to their enjoyment, they have to love the characters before they can love the story. So it’s not really superficial at all, it’s just what they need to "let go".

Anime is entertainment and is deep. It’s nothing without the shameful lows or the heart-rending highs. It’s sweeping diversity is it’s true strength; that one mans dull rock is another’s shining diamond.

Author: bateszi

A huge bloody nerd. I apologise in advance. I live in Cambridge, England. That's not an excuse, by the way.

20 thoughts on “Someone said “anime isn’t deep, it’s just entertainment””

  1. Pingback: Hige Vs. Otaku
  2. Yes! Anime is entertainment! And it doesn’t really matter if it’s deep or shallow, as long as you enjoy it, that is what’s important.

    Most of the time I find that I only start to truly like and enjoy an anime if and when a character “clicks” with me. When it does, then more likely than not that anime would now be part of my top favourites.

    I wouldn’t mind spending on some cool merchandise of my favourite anime, but I still wouldn’t spend over the hundreds or travel far and wide to cons. I love anime and I’d love to attend one someday, but it’s not a “must-do” on my list.

  3. *gets on soapbox*
    I don’t really like the word “deep.” It’s just too vague – what is “deep” anyway? What makes something “deep”? Does it have something to do with being intellectual or philosophical? Or artistic? Or having emotional power? (But then, where’s the line between real drama and cheap melodrama? Does one worth less than the other? Can you say that Kanon is “deeper” than, say, Cowboy Bebop, because it made you cry whereas Bebop didn’t?

  4. *climbs back to soapbox after having been shoved down by a bad html tag*

    Ahem, anyway… the above sentence with Kanon and Bebop is just an example I came up with right now, I’ve no prejudice against either shows, etc.)

    And while I enjoy reading the essays on this topic, I’m also a bit puzzled – I mean, it seems to me that many people are looking for justifications, that they’re trying to defend anime, and I can’t see why. Why do we have to insist that anime is “deep”? What’s wrong with “just entertainment”? Why should we take anime so seriously? Can’t “entertainment” be intelligent or engaging?

    And yeah, I agree that anime is entertainment, and as with all genres of entertainment, it varies greatly in quality, style, level of intelligence, etc. What you write about “feeling the magic,” emotional connections to characters, experiencing small (or bigger) catharses, experiencing a sense of comradeship with other fans, etc. – these are not unique to anime. It’s what all fans feel, if not about anime then about live-action TV shows, music, movies, “light novels,” games, etc. All of those are, in the end, entertainment, and all display a variety of quality and style.

    For me, anime is first and foremost, fun. It’s fun getting attached to characters, laughing at jokes or unintentionally funny melodrama, analyzing shows and characters that are worth it, seeing other people’s interpretations in fanfic and fanart, “suffering” harmless emotional blows and forming support groups with other fans (Gankutsuou was, to me, like a stormy love affair, and it left me crying for days, as if I had broken up with an SO), etc. There are a few shows that are more, or should I say, that mean more to me, shows that I actually do take seriously. But my all-time favorite show is Vision of Escaflowne, a completely mainstream fantasy-action-adventure-romance-everything-that-goes anime. It touches on some themes, scratches the surface here and there, but it never ever gets particularly “deep.” It’s even difficult to overanalyze. Yet it’s still one of the most perfect anime shows I’ve ever seen (the other is Cowboy Bebop).

  5. It’s interesting how discussions of whether being an otaku was something to be proud or ashamed of turned into discussions of whether anime is deep or just entertainment.

    In my mind, anime is just the vehicle, and it’s the story that should be considered deep or not. It’d be like asking, “Are books deep or just for entertainment?” Still, it is obviously fun to debate the merits of anime =).

  6. love the metaphor of wolf’s rain for ur argument. what anime could possibly be deeper yet just as entertaining.

  7. Pingback: That’s Not Kanon » Anime is more than "Just" Entertainment
  8. Perhaps if you want to cite a “deep” anime title, how about Kimi ga Nozomu Eien/Rumbling Hearts, 5cm per Second, or the upcoming Clannad?

  9. Okay guys, my apologies for the delay in this response, I was away for most of Friday and the only reason this article appeared yesterday was because we synchronized our efforts in an evil genius type fashion.

    With regards to the points raised by Nekonron and kuromitsu (on her slippery soapbox!) I think I agree that all anime <b>is</b> entertainment, it certainly isn’t torture! With that said, I was thinking about anime is terms of “light” entertainment and the kind of show that feels like it’s reaching out and touching your soul. I don’t think “entertainment” is an adequate word to describe such a feeling. That’s why I used the the Wolf’s Rain image, it’s a show that for me transcends that barrier and effects my thinking in a very profound way (thanks for noticing kauldron26).

    “Deep” is, and I admit it’s a vague term, subjective. That was a problem I had with writing this article. As much as I may love Gankutsuou, others dismiss it out of hand due its artsy aesthetic, on the other hand, I can’t stand something like Kanon, but it seems like others feel it’s this amazing emotional drama. That’s really why in the end, all I can say is that “one mans dull rock is another’s shining diamond”, because depth, especially in this visual genre, is a personal conclusion. Basically, there is no way to outright claim something ISN’T deep because we’re all different.

    It’s interesting that kuromitsu would pick out Cowboy Bebop and Escaflowne, anime that while fairly linear in terms of plot, illicit a strong emotional response from the viewer (myself included, I love both of those shows). Just because something is “simple”, does that mean it’s can’t be “deep”? In my own terms, I’d definitely class both of them as “deep” and emotionally moving anime. Depth, at least for me, has nothing to do with plot complexity, it’s what you are able to read into the characters, whether or not you can understand their reactions or disagree with them. Depth equates to resonance with the human “soul”.

  10. @bateszi u need to write an article about wolf’s rain and cowboy Bebop.

    @korimutsu u have good taste. Escaflowne and Bebop are perfect shows. even tho the came out 10 yrs ago they havent aged, be it in animation and music. and they still stand above so much shit that gets pumped out today.

  11. I liked this approach a lot. The idea of finding depth in a sub-culture’s community is an interesting angle to take. It also seems fairly pro depth (or acknowledging it as a legitimate potential, as you address in your article) by implying that something with a robust community as anime (how many American cartoons inspire this kind of fandom?) is suggestive of depth in and of itself. I might be stretching it a bit with that assumption, but still; definitely a cause for thought.

  12. A discussion about the concept of depth and the potential to reach out and touch the viewer’s soul, becomes even more complex when you consider the differences between Japanese and non-Japanese culture.

  13. Pingback: Anime is Deep, Right? …Right? — Memories of Eternity
  14. I relate to what you’re saying so badly, that I’ve dedicated an entire website to prove the point of the anime genre’s complexity and beautiful poetic moments, it took me a while but i just got it up, I’ve separated it into categories such as Philosophical/Meaningful Romantic quotes and so on.
    I hope you guys will not consider this mere spam, it is an honest request to simply share my archive to enjoy that aspect of the genre. or just email me some more quotes to add to the archive.
    Here’s the link for the site

  15. I will say this only one time. Watching anime for sake of entertainment is immature. Example:

    The more older and mature you get, the more time you start to spend on usefull things. Grow up people who are mature do not play videogames, because you do not gain anything from them. They watch 10 times less movies, then when they was young. It seams, that mature people do not care so much about entertainment as young people.

    My father DO watch movies, but most of time he plays chess, what is considered to develope logical thinking therefore chess is considered to be USEFULL.

    Doing anything for sake of entertainment and fun is useless. The more you do it, the more immature you are. Since you watch anime for sake of entertainment, insted you coud spend that 1 hour in martial arts in this case, you woud gain much more that simply “killing time”. So if person refuses from something usefull in order to gain simply kill time, what is not usefull in any m eaning, that person are irresponsible and therefore immature, because immaturity go “shoulder to shoulder” with irresponsibility.

    I do watch anime because of philosophy there. I do not care is it fun or not. In this case I do develope my mind, because I analyze ethics and meaning behind anime. Therefore I can say, that I am deep person, while all those anime fans who watch anime for sake of entertainment are shallow and immature. If they was mature, they woud understand pointless of watching anime for sake of entertainment. They woud understand how pointless it is to kill time with something useless while you can kill same time with something usefull. If you choose do something useless insted of something usefull you are kid. You simply can’t be bored, because you feel uncomfortable when you are boored. Grow up people do not care about beeing boored, therefore they can concentrate on usefull things.

    If you watch anime for sake of entertainment- YOU ARE KID! I just proved it…

    P.S. Do not put word in my mouth. Of course you can do useless thing in order to kill time, but since that is pointless and since noone can prove that killing time with useless things is practicall (because it is not), the LESS time you spend doing something useless the better it will be.

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